This strangely neglected figure in ancient history emerges as a modestly proficient general, an excellent strategist, a consummate diplomat, and an inventive and constructive ruler, the diversity of his empire demanding intelligence of a high order to hold it together. Seleukos Nikator will be of interest to students of ancient history and the politics of the Hellenistic world.
are all warriors. Each of us struggles every day to define and defend
our sense of purpose and integrity, to justify our existence on the
planet and to understand, if only within our own hearts, who we are and
what we believe in. Do we fight by a code? If so, what is it? What is
the Warrior Ethos? Where did it come from? What form does it take today?
How do we (and how can we) use it and be true to it in our internal and
The Warrior Ethos is intended not only for men
and women in uniform, but artists, entrepreneurs and other warriors in
other walks of life. The book examines the evolution of the warrior code
of honor and "mental toughness." It goes back to the ancient Spartans
and Athenians, to Caesar's Romans, Alexander's Macedonians and the
Persians of Cyrus the Great (not excluding the Garden of Eden and the
primitive hunting band). Sources include Herodotus, Thucydides,
Plutarch, Xenophon, Vegetius, Arrian and Curtius--and on down to Gen.
George Patton, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Israeli Minister of
Defense, Moshe Dayan.
Now the iconic anchor of The O'Reilly Factor details the events leading up to the murder of the most influential man in history: Jesus of Nazareth. Nearly two thousand years after this beloved and controversial young revolutionary was brutally killed by Roman soldiers, more than 2.2 billion human beings attempt to follow his teachings and believe he is God. Killing Jesus will take readers inside Jesus's life, recounting the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable - and changed the world forever.
This study investigates the making and duration of peace treaties, the purpose of so-called 'marriage alliances', the absence of summit meetings, and looks in detail at the relations between states from a diplomatic point of view, rather than only in terms of the wars they fought. The system which had emerged as a result of the personal relationships between Alexander's successors, continued in operation for at least two centuries. The intervention of Rome brought in a new great power which had no similar tradition, and the Hellenistic system crumbled therefore under Roman pressure.
Near the end of the last Ice Age 12,800 years ago, a giant comet that had entered the solar system from deep space thousands of years earlier, broke into multiple fragments. Some of these struck the Earth causing a global cataclysm on a scale unseen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. At least eight of the fragments hit the North American ice cap, while further fragments hit the northern European ice cap. The impacts, from comet fragments a mile wide approaching at more than 60,000 miles an hour, generated huge amounts of heat which instantly liquidized millions of square kilometers of ice, destabilizing the Earth's crust and causing the global Deluge that is remembered in myths all around the world. A second series of impacts, equally devastating, causing further cataclysmic flooding, occurred 11,600 years ago, the exact date that Plato gives for the destruction and submergence of Atlantis.
The evidence revealed in this book shows beyond reasonable doubt that an advanced civilization that flourished during the Ice Age was destroyed in the global cataclysms between 12,800 and 11,600 years ago. But there were survivors - known to later cultures by names such as 'the Sages', 'the Magicians', 'the Shining Ones', and 'the Mystery Teachers of Heaven'. They travelled the world in their great ships doing all in their power to keep the spark of civilization burning. They settled at key locations - Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Baalbek in the Lebanon, Giza in Egypt, ancient Sumer, Mexico, Peru and across the Pacific where a huge pyramid has recently been discovered in Indonesia. Everywhere they went these 'Magicians of the Gods' brought with them the memory of a time when mankind had fallen out of harmony with the universe and paid a heavy price. A memory and a warning to the future...
For the comet that wrought such destruction between 12,800 and 11,600 years may not be done with us yet. Astronomers believe that a 20-mile wide 'dark' fragment of the original giant comet remains hidden within its debris stream and threatens the Earth. An astronomical message encoded at Gobekli Tepe, and in the Sphinx and the pyramids of Egypt,warns that the 'Great Return' will occur in our time...
Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was executed as a state criminal. Within decades after his death, his followers would call him God.
Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most enigmatic figures by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived. Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction. He explores the reasons the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.
Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus’ life and mission.
Praise for Zealot
“Riveting . . . Aslan synthesizes Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.”—The New Yorker
“Fascinatingly and convincingly drawn . . . Aslan may come as close as one can to respecting those who revere Jesus as the peace-loving, turn-the-other-cheek, true son of God depicted in modern Christianity, even as he knocks down that image.”—The Seattle Times
“[Aslan’s] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. . . . A vivid, persuasive portrait.”—Salon
“This tough-minded, deeply political book does full justice to the real Jesus, and honors him in the process.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“Compulsively readable . . . This superb work is highly recommended.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
From the conquest of the Mediterranean beginning in the third century BC to the destruction of the Roman Empire at the hands of barbarian invaders some seven centuries later, we discover the most critical episodes in Roman history: the spectacular collapse of the 'free' republic, the birth of the age of the 'Caesars', the violent suppression of the strongest rebellion against Roman power, and the bloody civil war that launched Christianity as a world religion.
At the heart of this account are the dynamic, complex but flawed characters of some of the most powerful rulers in history: men such as Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Nero and Constantine. Putting flesh on the bones of these distant, legendary figures, Simon Baker looks beyond the dusty, toga-clad caricatures and explores their real motivations and ambitions, intrigues and rivalries.
The superb narrative, full of energy and imagination, is a brilliant distillation of the latest scholarship and a wonderfully evocative account of Ancient Rome.
Our Occulted History: Do the Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens? is an extensive survey that includes a mass of well-documented scientific and historical texts and sources. It will change the way you view the origins of mankind and the current state of society.
No subject is too controversial for Marrs, an award-winning journalist whose other investigative works include Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, the basis for the Oliver Stone film JFK; Rule by Secrecy; and The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy.
Is history destined to repeat itself?Will biblical prophecies come true, and if so, when?
It has been more than three decades since Zecharia Sitchin's trailblazing book The 12th Planet brought to life the Sumerian civilization and its record of the Anunnaki—the extraterrestrials who fashioned man and gave mankind civilization and religion. In this new volume, Sitchin shows that the End is anchored in the events of the Beginning, and once you learn of this Beginning, it is possible to foretell the Future.
In The End of Days, a masterwork that required thirty years of additional research, Sitchin presents compelling new evidence that the Past is the Future—that mankind and its planet Earth are subject to a predetermined cyclical Celestial Time.
In an age when religious fanaticism and a clash of civilizations raise the specter of a nuclear Armageddon, Zecharia Sitchin shatters perceptions and uses history to reveal what is to come at The End of Days.
As well as superb translations of all non-biblical texts sufficiently well preserved to be rendered into English, there are also a number of previously unpublished texts, and a new preface.
Since its first publication in 1962, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English has established itself as the standard English translation of the non-Biblical Qumran Scrolls and as giving an astonishing insight to the organization, customs, history and beliefs of the community responsible for them. This seventh edition will contain new material, together with extensive new introductory material and notes.
John Grainger's detailed study looks at aperiod of intrigue and conspiracy. He explores how, why and by whom Domitian was killed, the rule of Nerva, chosen to succeed him, and finally Nerva's own choice of successor, Trajan, who became a strong and respected emperor against the odds.
Perhaps most significantly Grainger investigates the effects of this dynastic uncertainty both inside and outside the ruling group in Rome, asking why civil war did not occur in this time of political upheaval.
The last time a dynasty had failed, in AD 68, a damaging military conflict had resulted; at the next failure in AD 192, another war broke out; by the third century civil war was institutionalized, and was one of the main reasons for the eventual downfall of the entire imperial structure. Grainger argues that though AD 96-98 stands out as the civil war that did not happen, it was a perilously close-run thing.
Millions of people around the world believe we have been visited in the past by extraterrestrial beings. What if it were true? And if so, what if there were clues left behind? Each week, hundreds of thousands of viewers tune in to the wildly popular Ancient Aliens® television series to seek insight into those very questions—and to become part of a thrilling, probing exploration of the mysteries at the heart of world civilizations.
The first official companion book to the hit show, Ancient Aliens® takes readers even deeper into the mysteries that have made the show a pop culture phenomenon. Filled with exciting insights and behind-the scenes stories from the show’s creators and leading experts in ancient alien theory, the book explores the key questions at the heart of the series:Who were they?Why did they come?What did they leave behind?Where did they go?Will they return?
Transporting readers around the globe, Ancient Aliens® explores the fascinating enigmas and mysterious artifacts our ancestors left behind, from incredible objects to amazingly accurate ancient maps; from the Great Pyramid of Giza and stone megaliths at Gobekli Tepe to the Nazca Plains and mysterious structures of Puma Punku.
Accompanied by lavish 4-color photography throughout, the book allows armchair archaeologists to examine the evidence up close for the first time. Both the ultimate-fan book and the perfect gift for readers new to the show, Ancient Aliens® is a compelling journey through the mysteries of our ancient civilizations and the possibility of alien influence on our cultures.
In this major new account of the causes of this "First Dark Ages," Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.
A compelling combination of narrative and the latest scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to, and ultimately destroyed, the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age—and that set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece.
Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This old-fashioned narrative history employs the methods of “history from beneath”—literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts—to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.
The story of how their citizens took on the Great King of Persia, and thereby saved not only themselves but Western civilization as well, is as heart-stopping and fateful as any episode in history. Tom Holland’s brilliant study of these critical Persian Wars skillfully examines a conflict of critical importance to both ancient and modern history.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Edward Gibbon’s magnum opus narrates the history of the Roman Empire from the second century A.D. to its collapse in the west in the fifth century and in the east in the fifteenth century. Alongside the magnificent narrative lies the author’s wit and sweeping irony, exemplified by Gibbon’s famous definition of history as “little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.”
An epic chronicle of uncommon literary distinction, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is widely considered the greatest work of history ever written. This unabridged eBook bundle of the celebrated text edited by Professor J. B. Bury, considered a classic since it first appeared in 1896, includes Gibbon’s own exhaustive notes, Bury’s original Introduction and index, as well as a modern appraisal of Gibbon in an Introduction from Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin.
Linking prehistoric archaeological remains with the development of language, David Anthony identifies the prehistoric peoples of central Eurasia's steppe grasslands as the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European, and shows how their innovative use of the ox wagon, horseback riding, and the warrior's chariot turned the Eurasian steppes into a thriving transcontinental corridor of communication, commerce, and cultural exchange. He explains how they spread their traditions and gave rise to important advances in copper mining, warfare, and patron-client political institutions, thereby ushering in an era of vibrant social change. Anthony also describes his fascinating discovery of how the wear from bits on ancient horse teeth reveals the origins of horseback riding.
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language solves a puzzle that has vexed scholars for two centuries--the source of the Indo-European languages and English--and recovers a magnificent and influential civilization from the past.
An experienced historian I have recently completed a book on the history of iAfrica titled, ‘Untold Story of Africa.’ It all started with my coming across some important facts that have been lost in oblivion about the continent and its people. On further exploration startling information came to light not only about the African continent but also about how historians and researchers over the ages have manipulated theories to deliberately degrade the otherwise rich and influential heritage of Africa.
The book discusses important yet unknown truths about the ancient Black civilizations and how they spread around the world, how the people and the beliefs of the African people have influenced different religions and how the Africans spread out into the world taking their knowledge, culture, art and architecture where ever they went. African history has helped shape and mold other civilizations over time without any due credit being given for it.
He tells of Alexander's violent suppression of the Theban rebellion, his defeat of Persia and campaigns through Egypt and Babylon - establishing new cities and destroying others in his path. While Alexander emerges as a charismatic leader, Arrian succeeds brilliantly in creating an objective portrait of a man of boundless ambition, who was exposed to the temptations of power.
In all this, the Vikings took untold treasures, but they weren't just barbarians, content to plunder and burn. They were builders of cities, founders of states, writers of poetry, and makers of laws. The Vikings also were bold and tenacious explorers who ventured across oceans to discover new territories - including the New World. Indeed, not since the golden age of the Roman Empire had any people so powerfully influenced the Western world. Here, from award-winning journalist Robert Wernick, is their dramatic story.
Volumes in the Library of Ancient Israel draw on multiple disciplines--such as archaeology, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and literary criticism--to illuminate the everyday realities and social subtleties these ancient cultures experienced. This series employs sophisticated methods resulting in original contributions that depict the reality of the people behind the Hebrew Bible and interprets these insights for a wide variety of readers.
This original and fascinating study does away with the propaganda and opens our eyes to who really established the civilized world. Delving deep into history, Terry Jones and Alan Ereira uncover the impressive cultural and technological achievements of the Celts, Goths, Persians and Vandals.
In this paperback edition, Terry and Alan travel through 700 years of history on three continents, bringing wit, irreverence, passion and scholarship to transform our view of the legacy of the Roman Empire and the creation of the modern world.
All over the world there are similar findings of ancient religions, cities and towers, world travel, advanced astronomy, and civilized government. Over the course of two years, a team of researchers from Jackson Hole Bible College has worked to bring together the different pieces of the convoluted mystery and history of ancient man.
Hours of researching, trips to various sites around North and Central America, visits to museums, and meetings with experts have provided the team with an overwhelming amount of evidence for the intelligence of these early innovators. A jumble of anomalies and magnificent structures continue to confound archaeology and anthropology today, yet as the dots are connected, one finds history as described in the biblical record.
The Lost Ark of the Covenant is one of the great historical mysteries of all time. To believers, the Ark is the legendary vessel holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Bible contains hundreds of references to the Ark's power to level mountains, destroy armies, and lay waste to cities. The Ark itself, however, mysteriously disappears from recorded history sometime after the building of the Temple of Solomon.
After ten years of searching through the dusty archives of Europe and the Middle East, as well as braving the real-life dangers of a bloody civil war in Ethiopia, Graham Hancock has succeeded where scores of others have failed. This intrepid journalist tracked down the true story behind the myths and legends--revealing where the Ark is today, how it got there, and why it remains hidden.
Part fascinating scholarship and part entertaining adventure yarn, tying together some of the most intriguing tales of all time--from the Knights Templar and Prester John to Parsival and the Holy Grail--this book will appeal to anyone fascinated by the revelation of hidden truths, the discovery of secret mysteries.
It is a story like no other: an epic of endurance in the face of destruction, of creativity in the face of oppression, joy amidst grief, the affirmation of life despite the steepest of odds.
It spans the millennia and the continents—from India to Andalusia and from the bazaars of Cairo to the streets of Oxford. It takes you to unimagined places: to a Jewish kingdom in the mountains of southern Arabia; a Syrian synagogue glowing with radiant wall paintings; the palm groves of the Jewish dead in the Roman catacombs. And its voices ring loud and clear, from the severities and ecstasies of the Bible writers to the love poems of wine bibbers in a garden in Muslim Spain.
In The Story of the Jews, the Talmud burns in the streets of Paris, massed gibbets hang over the streets of medieval London, a Majorcan illuminator redraws the world; candles are lit, chants are sung, mules are packed, ships loaded with gems and spices founder at sea.
And a great story unfolds. Not—as often imagined—of a culture apart, but of a Jewish world immersed in and imprinted by the peoples among whom they have dwelled, from the Egyptians to the Greeks, from the Arabs to the Christians.
Which makes the story of the Jews everyone's story, too.
Newly revised and updated, A History of Japan is a single-volume, complete history of the nation of Japan. Starting in ancient Japan during its early pre-history period A History of Japan covers every important aspect of history and culture through feudal Japan to the post-cold War period and collapse of the Bubble Economy in the early 1990's. Recent findings shed additional light on the origins of Japanese civilization and the birth of Japanese culture.
Also included is an in-depth analysis of the Japanese religion, Japanese arts, Japanese culture and the Japanese People from the 6th century B.C.E. to the present. This contemporary classic, now updated and revised, continues to be an essential text in Japanese studies. Classic illustrations and unique pictures are dispersed throughout the book.
A History of Japan, Revised Edition includes: Archaic Japan—including Yamato, the creation of a unified state, the Nana Period, and the Heian period. Medieval Japan— including rule by the military houses, the failure of Ashikaga Rule, Buddhism, and the Kamakura and Muroachi Periods periods. Ealy Modern Japan—including Japanese feudalism, administration under the Tokugawa, and society and culture in early modern Japan. Modern Japan—including The Meiji Era and policies for modernization, from consensus to crisis (1912-1937), and solutions through force.
This contemporary classic continues to be a central book in Japanese studies and is a vital addition to the collection of any student or enthusiast of Japanese history, Japanese culture, or the Japanese Language.
Bishop Eusebius, a learned scholar who lived most of his life in Caesarea in Palestine, broke new ground in writing the History and provided a model for all later ecclesiastical historians. In tracing the history of the Church from the time of Christ to the Great Persecution at the beginning of the fourth century, and ending with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, his aim was to show the purity and continuity of the doctrinal tradition of Christianity and its struggle against persecutors and heretics.
But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.
Mayor tells how amazing new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons prove that women warriors were not merely figments of the Greek imagination. Combining classical myth and art, nomad traditions, and scientific archaeology, she reveals intimate, surprising details and original insights about the lives and legends of the women known as Amazons. Provocatively arguing that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons, Mayor reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories. The Greeks were not the only people enchanted by Amazons—Mayor shows that warlike women of nomadic cultures inspired exciting tales in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Central Asia, and China.
Driven by a detective's curiosity, Mayor unearths long-buried evidence and sifts fact from fiction to show how flesh-and-blood women of the Eurasian steppes were mythologized as Amazons, the equals of men. The result is likely to become a classic.
Caesar's narrative offers insights into his military strategy & paints a fascinating picture of his encounters with the inhabitant of Gaul and Britain, as well as offering lively portraits of a number of key characters such as the rebel leaders and Gallic chieftains. This can also be read as a piece of political propaganda, as Caesar sets down his version of events for the Roman public, knowing that he faces civil war on his return to Rome.
The Life of Alexander the Great is one of the ﬁrst surviving attempts to memorialize the achievements of this legendary king, remembered today as the greatest military genius of all time. This exclusive Modern Library edition, excerpted from Plutarch’s Lives, is a riveting tale of honor, power, scandal, and bravery written by the most eminent biographer of the ancient world.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
The fascination Ancient Egypt holds in our minds has many sources, but at the heart of it lie hieroglyphics. This extraordinary writing system was for many years seen as the ultimate challenge and puzzle before finally being cracked in the 1820s. Preserved carved in stone or inked on papyri, hieroglyphic writings give a unique insight into an awe-inspiring but also deeply mysterious culture.
Toby Wilkinson has translated a rich selection of pieces, ranging from accounts of battles to hymns to stories to royal proclamations. This book is both very enjoyable and an essential resource for anyone wanting to study one of humankind's great civilizations.
This biography begins not with one of the universally known incidents of Alexander's life, but with an account of his father, Philip of Macedonia, whose many-territoried empire was the first on the continent of Europe to have an effectively centralized government and military. What Philip and Macedonia had to offer, Alexander made his own, but Philip and Macedonia also made Alexander form an important context for understanding Alexander himself. Yet his origins and training do not fully explain the man. After he was named hegemon of the Hellenic League, many philosophers came to congratulate Alexander, but one was conspicuous by his absence: Diogenes the Cynic, an ascetic who lived in a clay tub. Piqued and curious, Alexander himself visited the philosopher, who, when asked if there was anything Alexander could do for him, made the famous reply, "Don't stand between me and the sun." Alexander's courtiers jeered, but Alexander silenced them: "If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes." This remark was as unexpected in Alexander as it would be in a modern leader.
For the general reader, the book, redolent with gritty details and fully aware of Alexander's darker side, offers a gripping tale of Alexander's career. Full backnotes, fourteen maps, and chronological and genealogical tables serve readers with more specialized interests.
Professor Kramer communicates his enthusiasm for his subject as he outlines the history of the Sumerian civilization and describes their cities, religion, literature, education, scientific achievements, social structure, and psychology. Finally, he considers the legacy of Sumer to the ancient and modern world.
"There are few scholars in the world qualified to write such a book, and certainly Kramer is one of them. . . . One of the most valuable features of this book is the quantity of texts and fragments which are published for the first time in a form available to the general reader. For the layman the book provides a readable and up-to-date introduction to a most fascinating culture. For the specialist it presents a synthesis with which he may not agree but from which he will nonetheless derive stimulation."—American Journal of Archaeology
"An uncontested authority on the civilization of Sumer, Professor Kramer writes with grace and urbanity."—Library Journal
The Lost Gospel takes the reader on an unparalleled historical adventure through a paradigm shifting manuscript. What the authors eventually discover is as astounding as it is surprising: the confirmation of Jesus’ marriage to Mary Magdalene; the names of their two children; the towering presence of Mary Magdalene; a previously unknown plot on Jesus’ life (thirteen years prior to the crucifixion); an assassination attempt against Mary Magdalene and their children; Jesus’ connection to political figures at the highest level of the Roman Empire; and a religious movement that antedates that of Paul—the Church of Mary Magdalene.
Part historical detective story, part modern adventure, The Lost Gospel reveals secrets that have been hiding in plain sight for millennia.
Most of us know little about the early Americans and the wonders they achieved. Some of them learned to hunt forty-ton whales from dugout canoes; others built a vast system of canals that irrigated crops on tens of thousands of acres. Fully a thousand years before the pyramids at Giza went up, people on the Mississippi River were constructing even larger pyramidal earthworks, and later, a thousand miles to the north, others built a city that would remain the largest in North America until after the Revolutionary War. In the cradle of civilization that evolved in Central America, the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs built complex cultures and dazzling cities whose monumental structures and works of art still have the power to awe and inspire.
This book describes the peopling of North and Central America and examine their amazing societies - the farmers and cliff-dwellers of the Southwest United States, the mound-builders of the Midwest, the Northwest Coast whale-hunters with their potlatches and totem poles, and the mighty, gods-driven cultures of Mesoamerica. It is a saga as breathtaking as it is surprising.